The title of the exhibition, Don’t Axe Me, evokes American artist Ellen Gallagherher's radical approach to image, text, and surface — drawing equally from modernism, mass culture, and social history. This focused survey at the New Museum runs concurrently with Gallagher’s exhibition at the Tate Modern, London (May 2013). The exhibition traces the transformations, excavations, and accumulations of Gallagher’s practice through a number of her iconic paintings, drawings, prints, and film installations.
Born in 1965 in Providence, Rhode Island, Ellen Gallagher, attended Oberlin College; SEA (Sea Education Association), Woods Hole, MA; Studio 70, Fort Thomas, KY; School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and Skowhegan School of Art, ME. Her art explores issues of race, identity and transformation. Renowned for her reworking of popular black imagery, Gallagher draws on postwar magazines and advertising, as well as film and music culture. She makes repeated reference to the traditions of minstrelsy, as well as to specific performers such as vaudeville star Bert Williams and jazz musician Sun Ra. Pages from mid-century black photomagazines such as Ebony, Our World and Sepia - all dominated by advertisements for Afro hairstyles, wigs and skin products aimed at African-American women - are often cited in her investigation of the anxieties and tensions surrounding black identity in the age of consumerism. Historically specific cultural references are merged with Gallagher’s own personal biography as a black Irish American woman.
New Museum of Contemporary Art Website